Alberta Guide Dogs is a finalist in the @FieldLaw Community Fund Program, and we need your votes to win $7,000 worth of funding! Vote for our #FieldForward Idea (Autism Support Dogs) online by June 19 at bit.ly/2GNDofF . 1 vote per device – that’s one vote per phone, per tablet, per computer….
Autism Support Dog
With your help a puppy can grow up to be an Autism Support Dog and make a profound difference in someone’s life, like in the lives of Sawyer, Ryker and their parents.
“Our story, like many, includes sadness, fear, helplessness and uncertainty, but is now filled with joy, happiness, love and hope. Roman [our Autism Support Dog] joined our family this summer and our lives have been forever changed. We are a mommy, a daddy, and two beautiful boys, Sawyer and Ryker. Our boys are very different, but share their love of video games, toys, music, animals and nature, and they both have Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
All of us [now] have less anxiety. With Roman, I can take the boys out on my own so we aren’t isolated anymore, and we’ve gone places we could never go before and done things we didn’t think we could do.”
– Sawyer & Ryker’s mom.
Here are some things the boys have said since Roman joined their family:
“I don’t feel sad and angry anymore. How does Roman make it so I’m not sad and angry?”
“Roman made it so that I could button up a shirt! I never did that before!”
“I’m glad Roman keeps me safe because you know what? I don’t know why I run away, I can’t help it.”
Safety. Comfort. Companionship. Autism Support Dogs can dramatically and positively change the lives of children with moderate to profound autism and their families. The dog prevents a child from bolting or running away, keeping them safe. The dog aids the child with transitions from one space to another and with new tasks, new people and new situations. This helps reduce the isolation many families experience as trips to the park, a restaurant or even the grocery store become possible again as there is a higher degree of predictability of the child’s behaviour in social settings. Having a dog lowers aggression and frustration levels for the child and passively teaches the child responsibility.
It costs up to $35,000 and two years to breed, raise and train each dog and fundraising covers all of the expenses involved so that each dog is given to the recipient free of charge.
WHO WILL IT BENEFIT?
According to a surveillance study (done by the Centre for Disease Control in the United States) 1 in every 69 children are now found on the autism disorder spectrum. Boys were found to be significantly more likely to be on the spectrum.
Imagine, just for a moment, having a child with moderate to profound autism. You love your child. He is bright, busy and has the best smile in the world! Autism does not define your child. Having autism does present some challenges for them though.
When he is uncomfortable in a situation he bolts or runs away with no regard for his safety. This is very stressful and you stop going out on family outings. He has difficulties understanding spoken language and non-verbal body language and may be non-verbal himself.
He struggles with transitioning from one environment to another and uses repetitive behaviours as a self-calming mechanism, something his peers are sometimes uncomfortable with. Your son has difficulties sleeping, waking up often and unable to get back to sleep.
Now imagine that an Autism Support Dog enters your family’s life.
Your son’s bolting behaviour diminishes as he is hooked-up to the dog’s working jacket, and he quickly learns that bolting doesn’t get him very far as the dog is an anchor. Your son focuses on the dog and derives great comfort from this friendship. You and your family can now do things other families take for granted like going to the park, as your son will be safe.
Your son may say the dog’s name out loud. The dog provides a bridge for your son to have positive interactions with his peers. Transitions are easier because the dog is a constant in your son’s world, something that is very helpful and comforting for a child with autism. Repetitive behaviours are replaced with petting the dog, and this calms your son. Sleeping becomes easier as the dog provides consistent comfort throughout the night.
One Autism Support Dog will not change the world. For a child with autism and their families, though, one Autism Support Dog changes their world in a SIGNIFICANT and LIFE-CHANGING way and can provide support for up to eight years, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.